Lucrezia sighed inwardly. This was not the way she had planned things to go. She had intended to break the news to him gently, perhaps when he was at his most vulnerable. Lull him in to a false sense of security and then reveal the identity of her enemywhile Milliardos guard was down.

It was really his fault anyway. He kept... distracting her. She had had every intention of disclosing herself after their first night. But after it had proven so satisfying, she had been loath to ruin the mood and had promised herself to speak with him the following day. What did it matter if two days, then three had passed without talk of politics and war?

After the fifth day she realized that she could not postpone discussion any longer. She had gone to his chambers with full intent to deliberate with Caesar and plead her cause.

By the seventh day...

Lucrezia sighed again, a long and drawn out affair, and twisted her position to one that might be more pleasing to his eye. She pointed her toes, stretching her legs provocatively and straightening her robes, allowing them to slip and reveal another inch of calf. She couldnt help but smirk to see his line of vision drop and linger there a moment; if only for a moment.

It was no good though. He had caught her off guard and he knew it. Pouting; the image of a petulant child, Lucrezia gave a sharp flick of her wrist that sent her followers scattering from her chambers.

"Why, Queen, has your co-ruler of the throne of Alexandria and husband sent you into exile? And why are you leading an army of mercenaries again your own people?"

Lucrezia looked away from him, feigning annoyance at his questions.

"I have become aware," Caesar continued, "That the succession to the throne of Alexandria is somewhat different to the throne of Egypt of the Nilus, a position you as pharaoh enjoy on your own. Pray enlighten me, why your husband has found it fit to eject you from Alexandria."

The Egyptian monarch was silent for a moment, suddenly fascinated with a precious gem imbedded in one of her bracelets.

"Because my subjects rose up against me."

Milliardo raised an eyebrow at this.

"And why did they rise up against you?"

"Because of the famine, Caesar."

He waited for her to expand on her declaration, his expression one of skepticism, but Lucrezia refused to indulge him.

"And how are you responsible for the fickleness of the seasons..."

Letting out a sigh of exasperation, Lucrezia rose to her feet, moving away from him to pace her chambers in agitation.

"Because I have failed in my duty as Pharaoh I have failed to be fruitful."

"So why do they not rise up against their King too surely he must accept some responsibility"

Lucrezia shot Milliardo a look of veiled contempt, frustrated by his failure to understand.

"My brother does not want me. He wants our sister for his wife."

She frowned at his obvious lack of comprehension, and continued before he could interrupt her.

"Her blood is purer than mine, she is his full sister."

Milliardo shook his head in bewilderment, and she could see the air of superiority he obviously felt over the beliefs of her people.

"I feel for you, Pharaoh, but I do not see what I can do for you. I fail to see an answer to your dilemma..."

He paused in midsentence, comprehension suddenly dawning at the smug catlike expression on her face.

"Surely your people will not accept..."

"You are a God, Caesar! You are the God out of the West!"

"And you believe that?"

Lucrezia gave a gasp of vexation, pitying his naivety.

"I dont believe it Caesar, it is a fact!"

Milliardo stared at her in disbelief. "So this was your plan? You place a great deal of faith that I will provide you with an heir. And even if I do isnt it too late? It will be at least six nundinae before you know? Isnt the inundation due now?"

Lucrezia shrugged nonchalantly, her earlier agitation past now that Caesar showed signs of understanding.

"Amun-Ra will know. Just as I will know."

Milliardo studied her in silence for several moments, his expression thoughtful.

"Very well. But I will require a favor in return."

Lucrezia went still; appearing to withdraw into herself, before tentatively nodded her agreement.

"You will give complete cooperation in whatever I am called upon to do to Alexandria."

A slave tipped another scoop of cold water over the boiling rocks, sending clouds of hot vapor into the already misted steam room. Caesars General breathed in deeply, the mist raw and stifling in his lungs, and leaned back; closing his eyes. Although not oblivious to the other bathhouse patrons that came and went, Treize paid them no heed, for once his thoughts on something other than war strategy.

Une was up to something. Or someone else was and she had somehow got herself caught up in it. Either way he was intrigued Why she was so persistent about the inclusion on servants gossip in his correspondence with Caesar? He had never suspected any animosity towards the Lady Relena before on Unes part, so this new apparent scheme was out of the ordinary. Treize chuckled. Women. He made no attempt to understand them.

After months of campaigning, one of things Treize always anticipated upon return to Rome was the pleasure of the Bathhouses. Regrettably, the much anticipated moment of solitude was to be short lived, rudely interrupted by a low cough, drawing Treize back from his thoughts.


Sighing deeply, Treize cracked an eyelid and peered up. He had been aware of Barton and his followers surrounding him, even before the elder Senator had opened his mouth. He had noticed them huddled in the corner, plotting Gods only knew what, when he had come in. Obviously any hopes they would keep said plotting to themselves had been futile.


He masked his irritation as Senator Barton sat down beside him, realizing that there would be no quick exit.

"The Decree of Rome." Barton paused to glare accusingly at Treize. "Youve been keeping secrets from us."

Treize gazed back, unfazed.

"I'm as surprised as you."

In front of him, Senator Dermail gave a disbelieving snort.

"And we thought the two you were like brothers."

"Caesar has always kept his own counsel; that is news to no one. Now what do you want?"

Dermail and Barton exchanged a look, making it obvious to the General who the ring leaders were, as the rest of the troupe merely watched on.

"We wish to know your heart."

Barton nodded along with Dermail, before continuing for him. "For instance, General, should you find yourself inheriting the mantel of Caesar Could the Senate rely on your Friendship?"

Treize narrowed his eyes and glared guardedly at the other men.

"Caesar has said nothing of succession."

"You would be blind not to see that Caesar is forcing a confrontation," Barton snapped. "Apparently he has decided that the only way to maintain his grip on power is to rob us of ours. To destroy the Republic and anoint himself King."

Feeling his patience rapidly evaporating, Treize stood to leave; the older men instinctively stepping back to steer clear of the Generals imposing stature.

"He has refused the crown and I take him at his word."

Senator Bartons expression was unconvinced.

"Your tone, General, would suggest otherwise."

Treize looked down at Barton with a level glare.

"I stand with Caesar."

The atmosphere in camp that evening was triumphant as the legions celebrated their latest victory. Ale was raised with an affable joviality as battle wounds were compared and combat anecdotes traded.

Another campaign was ended... Rome had claimed another territory for her mantle.

At one fire, however, the mood was tense; even somber. Given a respectful and perhaps grudgingly wide berth by the other soldiers, three brothers in arms sat in a contemplative quiet. They did not celebrate their victory, despite having fought valiantly and fiercely. They mentioned nothing of the previous battle as did they not speak of what was to come... and what wasn't.

It would be the last time the comrades would fight side by side. The end of this campaign also signaled the dividing of their paths.

Trowa watched his companions silently. Across from him, Heeros profile was shrouded, unreadable. It was a blankness that Trowa had come to recognize over the years, the blank canvas that suppressed an unfathomable storm. He could not know what troubled his brother but he also knew that asking him would do little to make it known. Even the flickering light of the fire did nothing to betray his emotion.

Quatre, however... the man was an open book. His emotions played across his features with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. He had always lacked the ability to hide anything from his friends... something that had never failed to vex him. He had also been watching Heeros still reflections, and his agitation had grown in stature with the passing hours, swelling like some incensed beast since Heero had made his... announcement.

"Trowa... How can you not try and dissuade him from his present course? If anyone can convince him, it is you. How can you just stand back and...?"

Dissuade him? Somehow he suspected that he was past that now.

There had been a change in Heero; a darkness that he tried to conceal from them. It had consumed him for weeks now. Normally taciturn at the best of times, he now appeared completely absorbed in his thoughts. Sent ahead to scout out the enemy, he had returned silent and withdrawn. When at last they faced their foe, he had entered the battle with a ferociousness and blood thirst that was fearsome. Used to Heeros usual single minded style of combat, this time Trowa observed a new anger; even... desperation.

He fought like a man seeking... vengeance? What could have brought on this change?

And now this.

"You speak as though I am already dead, Quatre."

"Not yet perhaps. But you take this... duty and you soon will be."

Heeros scowl was dark indeed, little liking his friends lack of faith in his competence.

"Allow me some credit, friend."

Quatre looked away, his jaw clenched against the words that Trowa knew the Soon to be Senate member was biting back. He could not help but reflect on the apparently opposing paths the two friends were about to take.

Somehow, Trowa suspected that they both wished for the same outcome, even if their methods appeared contradictory...


Startled from his thoughts, Trowa turned his attention to the inquiring face of his Lady and berated himself for allowing his concentration to drift. He squared his shoulders and set his feet, bringing himself back to a rigid stance; inwardly criticizing his wavering from duty.

Perhaps he could blame the warm afternoon sun on his back. Or the expected tranquility of his post; what menace could be expected guarding the Lady Relena and her guests while relaxing as they were in the palace gardens? But he knew they were feeble excuses at best. The peacefulness of her company was making him careless.

He had been too long from the battle field.

"Forgive me, My Lady..."

"There is no need to apologize, Captain." Relena smiled softly, "I was simply curious of what deep reflections could give you such an expression of seriousness."

At this, Lady Relenas companion gave a good natured chuckle.

"Cousin, I was under the impression that he had no other expression but one of sternness and sobriety; he does take your wellbeing most sincerely after all. Do you mean to imply that you have seen his features betray something of the contrary?"

Trowa raised a cool eyebrow at the Senator. Quatre grinned at him over the top of his goblet of wine, resting back against the cushions of his chaise lounge with the elegance only born aristocracy could afford.

"Well Im sorry you see things so, as it simply reveals that you havent been paying attention. Relena protested with mock severity. Someone of your station should be far more observant, Senator. Trowa has a plentitude of guises; theyre simply more... understated than others."

Trowas stomach plunged and his mouth went dry as her eyes met his with the knowing glint of a secret shared. Unable to maintain her gaze, he bowed his head to her solemnly until she glanced away again.

Feeling distanced from their light hearted banter, Trowa brooded over the young woman in front of him, her attention now back on the blonde haired Senator. She reclined in easy repose, stretched out elegantly with the newly acquired awareness of her own femininity. Or perhaps it was merely his knowledge of her secret affair that bent him to see her in this new light...

Her fingers would sometimes brush thoughtfully across her throat or cheek, perhaps tracing a spot in remembrance of anothers touch, ghosting across her skin in imitation of her lovers fingers...

Trowa scowled, realizing he was grinding his teeth. Damn Heero.

She no longer unconsciously searched their surrounding area for his presence. And not surprisingly, he never appeared in her company. Had Trowa not known better, he would have thought the slave had lost the ladys favor. The concept was already widely speculated amongst the palace slaves.

But he knew better.

Heeros nocturnal wanderings had been so well accepted by the other slaves and guards after his addition to the slave quarters, no notice was taken when he disappeared from his mat every night. By morning he was always back and no one questioned it. It was even remarked by those that shared his sleeping space that they could get a full nights rest now. It seemed his first nights in the Palace had been disturbed by violent nightmares that could do little but disturb the slumber of those that slept near him.

Taking in the apparently well rested Lady before him, he wondered whether she had helped to cure him of those nightmares.

Trowa questioned how much longer it could last; for they could not possibly continue the pretense once her brother returned.

Caesar had been abroad for three nundinum now; a simple journey to inspect a province, now an active skirmish between Caesar and the Egyptian Pharaohs upstart younger brother.

"It is true then? That Milliardo contended with the Alexandrian King and his rioting mob?"

Quatre nodded. "Indeed it is. He won over the people with a promise to return their annexed Cyprus... the country has suffered for years from the loss of its cedar timber and copper mines... it was a most popular resolution for the public, and placed the Queen in a most advantageous light, since she was given full credit for making the treaty. Caesar also reminded them of their late Kings testament... decreeing that Egypt should be ruled by his eldest living daughter, Lucrezia and his eldest son, Ptolemy. It proved most... convincing.

Relena nodded slowly. "But obviously not convincing enough for Queen Lucrezias brother..?"

"Not at all. The stupid child has allowed himself to be lead astray by his self serving advisors and has fled the palace. The war is raging quite brutally it appears. The foundations of Alexandria have borne much damage and the necessary restoration of the city shall be extensive indeed, once Caesar has claimed victory. Which of course he will."

Relena smiled at this, a thin grimace in agreement to her cousins statement of the obvious. Sometimes it was all too easy to take the power of Romes armies for granted.

Milliardo glared at the offending piece of parchment, eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

It was a... miscalculation... on his part. He should have known better than to leave Relena back in Rome, unattended and without a chaperon. How could he have not seen it coming? He should never have let her make such a ridiculous purchase, should never have permitted her such indulgences.

To allow her to be defiled by such... he shook his head with disgust.

He needed to remove the slave before she began to have any more silly ideas. He knew the patterns of her nave heart. It would be best to break them apart now, before she became too infatuated. Nothing with his sister was ever frivolous. She would believe herself in love...

He frowned. It would not be enough to simply remove the slave...

Pagan appeared quickly at the summons of his Emperor; listening obediently to his instructions, before nodding solemnly, bowing deeply and making his way to the harbor.